Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Working with Your Shadow Animal: Summary

Our shadow animals are the dynamic that brings change to our lives. They test us, and give us the energy to change ourselves. They break us out of our comfortable places, and push us out into the world. Our shadow animals help us to integrate ourselves. Without our shadow animals, we would be incomplete.

By challenging us, shadow animals also teach us many life lessons. They help us with family legacy issues, and resolve feelings of shame and guilt. Not only that but they guide us through a life of chaos to one of empowerment.

As I have indicated in my other blog entries, there are several types of shadow animals. (I list them at the end of this blog.) They range from the shadow archetype to the dark trickster. Therefore it is also important to know what type your shadow animal is. This will help you in your shadow work.

These general suggestions will aid you in working with your shadow. First, welcome the animal into your life, and regard it as an ally. Remember you do not have to cuddle up with your shadow animal or have warm feelings towards them. Accept that they are there to help you, and try not to be revolted by them. Often times our phobias about certain animals (snakes for example) are clues as to what is missing in our lives.

To work with your shadow animal, you first need to study the animal, itself. What species is it? Not just “lizard,” but Gila monster or Komodo dragon. Can you find a similar species that you are less afraid of? Study both to see if you can gain any understanding of the shadow animal.

If you can, spend time observing the animal in a safe environment. Find out about the animal’s characteristics that distress you. People fear bats, since they are so alien looking and mysterious. I dislike dolphins because they whistle, which hurts my brain. Sometimes by observing the animal, we can pinpoint why we feel uncomfortable.

Keep a journal about your fears, angers, and hurts. See how the animal’s characteristics apply to any of these. Write your thoughts down about it. Look to see what working with the animal can do for you. For example, what is it about cobras that can help you? In Ancient Egypt, cobras protected the pharaohs from harm, by their swift and sure strikes. Can cobra offer you such protection?

How do I deal with dolphins, which are my shadow animal? First, I identified the species of dolphin that bothered me – the bottlenose. Then I found a species that I could tolerate – the boto (Amazon River dolphin). Because they both whistle, why could I accept the boto but not the bottlenose? The boto navigates the murky places of the Amazon, and communicates with whistles. Meanwhile, the bottlenose will loudly whistle (like turning up a boom box) to blast other dolphins with sound. This prompted me to discover how I use my voice.

The second thing that I did was to find something positive about bottlenose dolphins. They are usually found in water parks performing for people. These dolphins are often the first contact with sea animals that people have. By being captives, bottlenose dolphins sacrifice themselves to become the ambassadors of the oceans. Seeing this positive attribute allowed me to tolerate them.

The shadow animal is the depository of our fears, temptation, anger and unresolved pain. By accepting our intense hate or fear of this animal, we can begin the process of healing. Once we embrace our shadow parts, we show ourselves self-love.

By facing your fears, you will accept a part of you. You become more empowered and balanced. Take heart when a mosquito bites. You may need to learn lessons in assertiveness or greed. Remember that every animal has wisdom to offer you.


--- The photo is of hourglass dolphins.

Other blogs in this series: Shadow Animals:The Trickster and the Bringer of Death

Shadow Animals:The Trickster and the Bringer of Death

Shadow Animals: Nahualli and Heyoka

Shadow Animals: Darkness and Shadow Archetype

Shadow Animals: Introduction

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Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  


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